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The ABC's and 123's of Home Exchange

   I. Introduction
  II. Creating Your Listing
 III. Preparing your initial contact letter.
       An Important Letter to send… A "No, Thank you"
 IV. Preparing your Full Information Sheet for a Positive Reply
  V. Contract and Agreement Ideas List Agreement Guidelines
 VI. Preparing Your Home for Your Exchange
       To Do's: Check List before Departure (Guidelines only) 
       To Do's: When leaving your host home and preparing to return home

I. Introduction

Welcome to the world of home exchange, I think that you are going to be thrilled with the choice that you've made to start this fascinating and fun adventure. Experienced home exchangers tell us that setting up the swap is something they find exciting, challenging and down right fun. Though it does require some work on your part. Part of the fun is realizing that through the medium of home exchange, you may indeed be able to travel to places you never considered possible before! 

One of the most important aspects of finding a swap is FLEXIBILITY. The more flexible you can be with dates and destinations, the easier you will find your task. Another important aspect is giving yourself plenty of time to plan; the earlier you can begin to make contacts the better. Lastly, clear communication between parties is very important, so that the exchange will be a positive experience for all!

II. Creating Your Listing

Let's get started! First, you will have to create your listing. As a home schooler, you might want to include your children on this part. Think of all the things of interest to do in your area: places of historical significance, state parks, museums, theatres, etc… Write about your home, your area and your family for your listing. Then register your listing on this site. After you have completed your listing, the fun part begins.

Now it is time to search through the listings on our site and decide where you would like to go! If you are really flexible you can begin by using the reverse search to see if anyone has expressed an interest in coming to your area. 

Next, proceed by looking through listings that are in places that you would be interested in visiting. (Pay close attention to things like number of people the home can accommodate, or special amenities that are important for your family.) Also pay close attention to those who are open to offers from anywhere. Most home exchanger's are adventurous!

Make an extensive list of any possibilities that you find interesting; be prepared to send out an initial contact letter to 10-15 families. Don't worry about contacting too many members at first. Remember this is just your initial contact to test to see if there is any interest. Based upon replies, you will soon narrow your contacts to more serious possibilities. Again don't be afraid to offer your home to someone who has not listed your area as one of interest, but only if they have expressed that they are open to possibilities. 

Got your list together? Good, now let's move on…

III. Preparing your initial contact letter.

Keep this correspondence polite and simple. 

Let them know:
a. You saw their listing on our site, and that you are interested in their home.
b. Give them your location and more details about your home, and what is available in your area.
c. Include the possible month or season you are interested in, and/ or how long you would like to stay. 
d. Give them your listing number, so that they can read about your home and family. (Make sure that your listing is up
    to date, and says everything that you want it to say before making this initial contact.)
e. Thank them in advance for their response to your offer, whether positive or negative, so that you will know how
    to proceed.

An Important Letter to send and receive… A "No, Thank you"

Responding to Initial Contact Letter is important…especially if the answer is no! There is nothing more disappointing to send out letters and receive no reply. This type of a letter lets the party continue in their search for the right exchange family. Please don't ignore an inquiry for your home because you aren't interested in it. Simply and POLITELY explain that an exchange with them isn't possible at this time, but that you will keep their information on file for future reference, and thank them for considering you. A sample follows…

Dear Neighbor,

Thank you so much for your interest in our home. Unfortunately, at this time, I don't think that we will be able to make an exchange with your family. We will put you in our file for future reference. 

Take care and happy home exchange hunting! 
Your neighbor

IV. Preparing your Full Information Sheet for a Positive Reply

OK…someone in the neighborhood has said, "Yes! We might be interested in coming to your house, tell me more!"
This is your opportunity to represent your family and home to your prospective swap partners. Be very careful to give an accurate, honest picture of your home and opportunities that are available in your area. Don't be tempted to make it seem bigger or better (remember you don't want them to embellish either!) Integrity is very important in arranging a home exchange, if done with honesty, everyone is informed and expectations are met, making the exchange a positive experience for all. 

In your full information sheet, give more details about your family; names, hobbies, what type of work you do. Tell how long you've been homeschooling, and what your kids are interested in.

Describe in more detail about your home; it's age, size, and how long you've lived there. Include a list of appliances you have (or don't have…i.e. microwave, coffee maker etc…) that they will be able to use. 

Give them an idea of what the weather is like at the time that you intend to travel. Tell them about different attractions they might want to see and give them an idea of how far you are from these things.

Mention any responsibilities you might need them to take care of, to see if they are willing, such as pet care, watering plants etc…

Ask any questions you have about their home, family or exchange that you would like to know, or are unsure about.

If the exchange is going to include a vehicle make sure you give them details about the car, make and model, if it's an automatic or manual shift, gas mileage, if you allow smoking in your car. 

Again, thank your potential partners for their interest, and let them know you look forward to their reply.

Now you wait for the reply and if it is positive you move on to the next step, which is making concrete decisions concerning the swap.

V. Contract and Agreement Ideas (ideas and more ideas!)

There is no need to worry about a legal contract when home exchanging, but one of the most important things that you can do is make sure that you communicate clearly about expectations and decisions concerning the uses of your respective homes and contents. 

Below is a list of ideas that you may use to guide you through the various details of your exchange. It is listed here merely for your convenience. The best way to approach the agreement aspect is to simply write a letter addressing any of these that are applicable. 
Consider this as "Cafeteria Style" you don't have to do it all, only that which applies.

Agreement Guidelines

• State agreed upon dates and times of your exchange. Make them aware of your basic itinerary.
• Clearly define who will be in your exchange party. (Guests are appropriate if your host is aware and agreeable)
• Home Rules (just some ideas)
     1.  Smoking/Non Smoking
     2.  Remove shoes when entering home.
     3. No eating in bedrooms, 
     4. Eat only at table.
     5. Discuss any areas of home that you need to restrict use of (appliances, computers)
• State your special needs, wheelchair, allergies etc…
• Pet Care (be very clear with the extent of the needs before asking for their agreement. DO NOT demand or use guilt
   to secure pet care… it may cause you to lose your exchange)
• Daily Chores that may need attending.
• Review Insurance, making sure your home, guests and vehicles are covered.
• Discuss who will be responsible for breakages.
• Discuss payment for long distance calls.
• Decide whether to replace food supplies eaten and paper products OR not.
• Make arrangements on how to switch keys 
• Agree to clean each other's home or pay to have it cleaned upon departure.
• Agree to change sheets and wash all linens before departure.
• Inform them of anyone who will be able to greet them upon arrival.
• If exchanging car provide
     1.  Info on vehicle, make/model, license number
     2. Automatic or stick shift?
     3. Insurance Info (where located in vehicle, agent name #)
     4. Any oddities about your vehicle
     5. Restrictions on Car, age of driver, mileage,
     6. Agree to leave tank full of gas, cleaned and washed
     7. Agree that drivers will not drink alcoholic beverages while driving.

A great place to find information on exchanging tips is on "Home Exchange Travels". 
This is a blog by an exchanger who has completed more than 30 home swaps since 1991. She has tons of information and ideas for your use. Particularly helpful is the information on Agreements and Contracts. She gives several samples for you to view. (The owners of "The Neighborhood" do not necessarily agree with all of the ideas and opinions of the writer of this blog –mainly because we haven't read it all, but overall she has a WEALTH of information for new and experienced home exchanger's alike.)


VI. Preparing Your Home for Your Exchange

O.K. The swap details are basically settled and it's time to think about preparing your home for your guests! 

Have you ever put your home for up for sale? You went through all the necessary changes that needed to be done in order to make it presentable; new coat of paint in the bathroom, pressure wash exterior and deck and when you were finished you had almost talked yourself into staying!! Well, here's a opportunity to nudge yourself to do all those little projects on your "to do list", those that never seem to get done… a little deadline that will get those things accomplished and will make your exchange a little more pleasant for your guests…and not to mention when you return home your family will enjoy the updates too!

Take a minute to make a list of simple to do's that will make your home more comfortable. Clearing clutter will probably be your biggest chore… but won't it be wonderful to have it done? And you've got a great motivation to get it done…all of us need a little motivation sometimes…(at least I do!)

Below are some things that you might consider when making preparations specific for your exchange.

To Do's: Check List before Departure (Ideas only)

• Prepare a "Home Exchange Notebook" that contains information on your home, appliances, directions, and tourist info
   etc… see below for more information.
• Gather local tourist attraction guides (get multiple copies for future exchanges) Leave guides in your notebook for your
   guests, you might even consider mailing them to them ahead of time. Ask them to do the same for you!
• Gather menus from nearby restaurants to leave in your notebook.
• Arrange for a close friend or neighbor to greet your guests the day after their arrival.
• Tell neighbors of your exchange plans and ask their help in welcoming your guests.
• Leave Keys (house and car) with Neighbor/ Friend. It is a good idea to leave an extra set too, just in case.
• Make space in drawers, closets and cabinets (leave empty hangers)
• Leave towels and clean sheets.
• Have an extra set of sheets for each bed, and instructions on where to find them. This way, your guests will not have to
   wash and reuse the same set—this will help make departure day easier for you and your partner.
• Stock up on:
     1. Cleaning supplies,
     2. Laundry detergent, 
     3. Soap
     4. Shampoo
     5. Toilet paper
     6. Medicine Cabinet: 
     7. Make sure that you put away any prescriptions or dangerous medications that could be found by children.
     8. Make sure you have on hand basic first aid supplies, band-aids, allergy medicine, pain reliever's, tweezers and needle
         for splinter removal. (Kid's and splinters always go together!)
• Lock valuables away (in closet or leave with trusted friend). 
• Prepay bills if exchange is longer than a few weeks. 
• Ask post office to hold mail.
• Leave agreed upon passes for parking, or for a club or gym to which you are a member and can share.
• Mow lawn, clean pool, prepare the out of doors area. 
• Car: 
     1. Tune-up, change oil
     2. Leave with full tank of gas 
     3. Clean and vacuum
     4. Copy of AAA information
     5. Make copy of driver's license to send to exchange partner.
     6. Write permission letter from yourself to your guests listing both of your names, and leave in the same location as the
          insurance, in the event an emergency occurs.

• Buy a gift from your area such as a coffee table book, to leave as thank you gift at your host's home upon your
• Leave welcome notes and notebook with information in an easy to find area.
• Think about making a video welcoming the family to your home! And maybe explaining how to use things in the house
   and locations! (Not too long, just useful)
• Leave basic foodstuff in fridge so guests don't have to run out to store immediately. Milk, cheese, bread, box of cereal,
   water bottles, leave crackers or quick snacks and drinks esp. for the children.
• Make sure that you have your swap partner's name and address written down to carry with you on your trip. It has
   happened that an exchanger has forgotten the name and address of the exchange home they were to visit, and
   experienced a time of anxiety trying to find their "home away from home". It is probably a good idea to write down their
   cell phone number and email too, just in case, and ask them for a local contact number in their home town.

To do's when leaving your host home and preparing to return home

• Wash and clean all linens, remake beds.
• Sweep, Vacuum and Mop floors if needed 
• Put everything back as you found it
• Straighten rooms
• Replenish anything you agreed upon (food, paper supplies, fuel)
• Leave thank you gift for your host along with a short note telling them of your visit.


This is considered a very important item for greeting your exchange guests! Make it as concise and organized as possible…without being too much material to wade through. There are printable sheets that you can copy and simply fill in the blanks if you choose that may make the process a little more concise.    (*********click here**********). 
Here are some ideas for some information that you may like to include.

Names and Numbers

• Your contact number and itinerary
• Your home telephone number (for their convenience)
• Neighbors/Friends/Family (seek permission of each of these before listing them as contact people)
• Recommended Babysitter (with payment guidelines)
• Emergency Contacts
     1. Insurance Agents (house and car)
     2. Hospitals/Doctors/Emergency Clinic/Pharmacy (with directions to the location for each)
     3. Veterinarian
     4. Police/Fire Department
     5. Landlord (if applicable)
• Repair Services
     1. Car
     2. Appliance
     3. Plumber
     4. Electrician

Things in the Area
• Location of 
     1. Grocery Store
     2. Pharmacy
     3. Post Office
     4. Pool (private, public or neighborhood)
     5. Restaurant Guide

• Vehicle Information
     1. Info on vehicle, make/model, license number
     2. Automatic or stick shift?
     3. Insurance Info (where located in vehicle, agent name and number)

Home-Related Topics
• Trash collection times
• Services/Deliveries that may call during the time of exchange.
     1. Bottled water etc
     2. Pool and/or yard maintenance
     3. Maid
     4. Maintenance termite or bug treatment
• List of shut offs (water, electric, gas)
• Owner's Manuals AND Your own simple instructions
     1. TV/ VCR/ DVD Player (make sure you leave remotes in easy to find location.)
     2. Music/Media Equipment
     3. Stove/
     4. Vacuum Cleaner
     5. Heat/AC- leave location of thermostats and directions
     6. Alarm System, leave clear instructions so as to have no problems
• Daily Chores that need attending
• Plant care (leave detailed info.)
• Pet Care (leave detailed info.)
• List whereabouts of basic sewing kit, first aid supplies

Recreational Information

• Tourist Info. 
• Maps (local, marked with your home and nearby places of interest)
• Guides to Area Attractions
• Free Stuff to do
• Bus/Train Schedule (if applicable)
• Locations of
     1. Restaurants (recommend your favorites, gather menus)
     2. Mall/Shopping Area
     3. Movie Cinemas
     4. Golf Courses
     5. Theaters
     6 Dry Cleaners
     7. Convenience Store

Friendly Contact Numbers

Our Name:_______________________________________________________

Home Telephone Number:__________________________________________

Cell Number:_____________________________________________________


Neighbors: Telephone Number________________
















Home Related Topics

Trash collection Days:_______________________________________________

Services that will be visiting and what day to expect them: (lawn care, water bottle delivery, pest control etc...)




Instructions for Appliances and Equipment



DVD Player

Emergency Contact Information
(Dial 911 if you have an immediate emergency and need an ambulance.)

NAME                                                                                                       NUMBER

Walk-in Clinic:_____________________________________________________ 





Police Dept._______________________________________________________

Repair Services:

Handy Man:_______________________________________________________

Emergency Shut Off Locations


Plant Care

Daily Chores that Need Attending

Places in the Area

Locations and Telephone of :

Grocery Store:



Post Office:


Restaurant Guide: Our Favorite Places





Pet Care Agreement Guidelines

Our Pets:

What kind of pet: Name:__________





Instructions for feeding and caring for our pets:

Where food is located:

Where food dish is located:

Other Instructions:


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